A “Virtual Séance” with the Founders of the American Music Center

In celebration of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the American Music Center, the history of the AMC is here presented exclusively in the words of its six founders–Aaron Copland, Howard Hanson, Otto Luening, Quincy Porter, Marion Bauer, and Harrison Kerr–culled from archival interviews, books and letters and then shuffled and re-organized to emulate a conversation.

Written By

Frank J. Oteri

Frank J. Oteri is an ASCAP-award winning composer and music journalist. Among his compositions are Already Yesterday or Still Tomorrow for orchestra, the "performance oratorio" MACHUNAS, the 1/4-tone sax quartet Fair and Balanced?, and the 1/6-tone rock band suite Imagined Overtures. His compositions are represented by Black Tea Music. Oteri is the Vice President of the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM) and is Composer Advocate at New Music USA where he has been the Editor of its web magazine, NewMusicBox.org, since its founding in 1999.

17 East 42nd Street, New York NY,
November 1939


  1. Personal & Musical Backgrounds of the Founders
  2. The Pre-History of the Center
  3. The Center Opens
  4. The Center’s Difficult First Years
  5. Great Teachers and Music Education
  6. The State of Music in the United States
  7. What is American Music?
  8. On Other Composers and Other Forms of Music
  9. Later History of the American Music Center
  10. Advice for Today’s Composers

The ‘virtual séance’ is a compendium of quotes from archival interviews, books and letters by the six founders of the American Music Center spanning their entire careers. Although the texts have been shuffled and re-organized to emulate a conversation relevant to the concerns of the American Music Center in November 1999, every statement contained in the ‘virtual séance’ is in the words of one of the founders unless otherwise stated. It is a product of intensive research conducted by NewMusicBox editor Frank J. Oteri during the months of September and October 1999 at Yale University (New Haven CT), the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts (New York NY) and the Archives of the American Music Center. The efforts of many people have made this possible. NewMusicBox would like to thank: Vivian Perlis – Director of Oral History, American Music at Yale University; Deborah Bellmore – Administrative Secretary for Oral History, American Music; Suzanne Eggleston – Reference Librarian, Yale University Music Library; James Undercofler, Director Eastman School of Music; George Boziwick – Curator, American Music Collection of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts; and Peggy Holloway, University of Nebraska at Lincoln.